Net Zero

Net Zero Carbon Champions – Childbase Partnership

Our series Net Zero Carbon Champions is shining the light on business leaders across all industries who are committing their companies to bold and ambitious sustainability targets.  Founder and CEO of Planet Mark Steve Malkin recently sat down with Mark Bird at Childbase Partnership to find out about their net zero journey.

Words:
Charlotte Cameron
Images:
George Catchpole
Childbase nursery children
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As CEOs and company executives around the world recognise the critical role that business plays in addressing the climate crisis, founder and CEO of Planet Mark Steve Malkin is sitting down with leaders across all industries who have put into place bold and ambitious net zero targets.  

We kicked off the series hearing from Ross Wilson of Ingram Valley Farm, a Planet Mark certified farm in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills, that is leading the way in sustainable farming. Ingram’s commitment to sustainable produce and local farming is combined with continuous improvement in carbon reduction through measures such as reduced fuel usage and transitioning to electric vehicles.  

You can watch the first video in the series here.  

Our next installment features Mark Bird of Childbase Partnership, an employee-owned childcare company that has been Planet Mark certified for three years. Having pledged to achieve net zero by 2030, Childbase are engaged with our ZeroBy30 programme and have put together a detailed net zero roadmap to achieve their targets.

In their discussion, Mark Bird shares some of the tangible and impactful projects they have deployed to reduce their carbon emissions, for example transitioning to LED lighting. The most impactful initative, Mark explains, has been working with employees and customers to encourage sustainable travel.  

Through the ZeroBy30 programme, Childbase identified that one of the major emission sources for the organisation was travel. Based on surveys conducted, Childbase were able to provide customers and employees with their own carbon footprint based on these travel emissions. Recommendations could then be made around alternative sustainable options. Further surveys are planned to track the response rate to these recommendations and how it has impacted the carbon footprint of the business. 

For Mark, it was not only the business benefits, such as cost savings and retaining employees, that drove the decision to commit to net zero, but the legacy it will leave for future generations: for his own children and for children like those at Childbase nurseries.  

“You’ve got to be trying to leave the planet in as good a place as it is for you when you were that age, ideally better.” Mark said.  

You can watch the full Net Zero Carbon Champions video with Mark Bird here and read the full transcript below.  

Childbase Nursery stop

Net Zero Carbon Champions transcript

Steve Malkin
Hi, I’m Steve Malkin and welcome to Net Zero Carbon Champions. This is our opportunity to interview business leaders around the UK, and indeed the world, and to discuss how and why they are cutting carbon emissions and setting net zero carbon targets. It’s all part of our Zero Carbon Tour and their encouragement and inspiration for other organisations to set credible net zero carbon targets in time for COP26 and way beyond. Today I’m joined by Mark Bird, a great friend of ours at Planet Mark. Mark is from Childbase Partnership where he’s the Health, Safety and Environment Director. Welcome Mark! 

Mark Bird
Hi, thank you for having me.  

Steve Malkin
You’re very welcome, we’re looking forward to having a chat. What we’d like to do is launch straight away into our first question. Setting net zero carbon targets and cutting carbon emissions is really important. Where abouts is Childbase Partnership on that journey? 

Mark Bird
So, we are very far along, I think. We set a net zero by 2030 target in our financial year 2018 to 2019. So, we’re now obviously headlong into that and we’re starting our first big investments of LED lighting across the business – £170,000 worth of lighting this financial year and around half that in the following financial year. So, we’ve made some great big early strides into that area and also, we recently became a carbon neutral company with approved UN offsets. So, we’re trying to attack it at both ends if you want, both with what’s happening now, as well as what we have done, as the most ethical approach. 

Steve Malkin
So you’ve set a great target. You’ve set some deadlines for that target. Already you’re deploying initiatives. What do you think is the biggest and most impactful initiative that you guys have deployed so far? 

Mark Bird
So, the biggest thing in terms of stakeholder engagement and an impact would be working with all of our customers and all of our employees. We’ve done a series of surveys backed up by guidance and signposting for sustainable travel. We’ve discovered via the ZeroBy30 programme that a large volume of our emissions comes from the customers and from the employees, sometimes unavoidably, but sometimes avoidably. So, we’ve set about providing them with what their carbon footprint looks like in terms of their own travel, based on their survey responses, and then providing information via insights from that to help them move towards a more sustainable travel choice, for example walking in or buses or bikes or some combination thereof. This will also be followed up with subsequent surveys so we can in theory track the response rate and how good people are being in terms of their sustainable travel choices every couple of months throughout. So, we hope that kind of momentum for the next seven or eight years until 2030 will see us really reduce that sort of impact as much as possible. 

Steve Malkin
Really fascinating, thanks for that. Because these infamous Scope 3 carbon emissions in your supply chain or downstream in terms of your customer base, so it’s really great to see that you understand the impact of those and naturally are taking these great steps to improve them. What do you think is the biggest challenge that you’ve faced? 

Mark Bird
I think currently the biggest challenge is the lack of support centrally from say government in terms of investment in sustainable initiatives or grants or incentives. Those sorts of areas. A lot of our ZeroBy30 investment was based around things like the Renewable Heat Incentive. Lots of that wound up and the replacement is significantly worse, so we’re in a situation where we’re having to look at the economics of it.

Steve Malkin
That makes a lot of sense, so they could be looking for more support centrally and even locally through the government, that might help organisations do more in terms of that commitment you spoke about from the company. What do you think the business benefits are? What are the ones you’ve identified – the top one or two business benefits you think of setting a net zero target? 

Mark Bird
I don’t think of it in business terms, it’s not really my wheelhouse. However, the advantage is being seen in terms of customers wanting companies to be doing what is seen as the right thing within the climate crisis. You know it’s very much in the news currently and as well as just generally speaking, so that is coming to us regardless. As the current group of younger people have children, they’re going to want to put their money where that money’s being invested in not contributing to climate change. So, the longer you’ve been doing it and the harder you’ve been going at it, the more viable you are as a company on that playing field. I don’t see it as being harsh and competitive like that, but that is somewhat a reality. 

Steve Malkin
We’re hearing that there’s multiple benefits about cost saving and the ability to retain employees and so on, but you run so many nursery schools across a vast area of the UK, you’re educating our future generations, is that a major point about why you’ve set your zero carbon target? 

Mark Bird
Yeah that’s a big motivator of mine. The reason I moved into the field was that I’ve got two young children, they’re four and one. I want them to have the same future opportunities that I’ve had, free of having to worry about flooding, fire and pestilence. I think that’s ultimately got to be in the back of everybody’s mind from government through to people on the street. You’ve got to be trying to leave the planet in as good a place as it is for you when you were that age, ideally better. 

So that from a business perspective, it filters into our partnership with Eco-Schools England, with all our nurseries and our Green Flag holders, many have got double Green Flags. They’ve gone back now from 2016 onwards so we’re at the forefront of that within the early years sector.  

The benefits are economical as well, ultimately better, more efficient heating systems and lighting is cheaper, it’s not rocket science. LEDs are cheaper than fluorescent bulbs. So economically, if you just ignored all the environment stuff, it’s just better business regardless. It’s just trying to get through the initial investment phase and to see that kind of logic, but I guess that’s one of the things that sustainable work is having to try and push within business, is that you need to think beyond a three-year plan, a one-year plan, a two-year plan. It’s got to be thinking ten years. You’ve got to look at these kinds of investments more drawn out and what value that will transmit back into the business.  

Steve Malkin
You took a very bold step at Childbase to commit to a net zero carbon target. If you have one piece of advice to other organisations looking to join the UN-backed Race to Zero, as you’ve done, and commit to a credible net zero target, what one piece of advice would you give to them in terms of starting out on that journey? 

Mark Bird
For me it’s just jump in. Don’t wait to have your perfect data set and for everything to be measured and cognoscente of everything that’s going on in your business. I think the best thing to do is actually to jump in now and then allow the message and the target setting and to then drag the rest of the bits and pieces along on the journey with you. We’re not perfect and I challenge anybody within that space to be perfect. Everything is moving along and we’re trying to make everything more transparent and more legitimate and more available in terms of things like utility reporting, so you shouldn’t see the scope of it as a challenge as to not do it in the first place. My advice is just do it and then sort it out later. I think it’s Richard Branson who has a quote to that effect – “say yes and then work out how to do it later”. 

Steve Malkin
I think we follow your sentiment, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. There’s some urgency here and there’s a great role for organisations to play. 

Maybe we could just leave on the point that we’re trying to work together to create a brighter future. What’s your view of a brighter future ten years out, post 2030. 

Mark Bird
Wow, well I really hope that in 2030 we’ve seen years, hopefully at that point, of sustained carbon reduction in the atmosphere, at which point my son will be 14 and my daughter will be ten, and the sort of climate issues that we’re seeing will have abated. Obviously, there’s a certain amount baked in that’s already been emitted, so there’s some damage that is unavoidable, but hopefully we’ll start to see that come back and even if 2030 ends up being similar to 2015 in terms of its carbon, it will be a better place and that’s ultimately what the point is. Returning it to or maintaining it at a good place without any concerns around food scarcity or rising waters or fires. 

Steve Malkin
Well, you know, like you Mark, I think that we feel it’s very much in our hands. 

We’re super excited to work with Childbase, it’s always been a pleasure. We love the level of ambition, we love the opportunity to work with you and supporting the education of our future generations and doing it in a way where we’re enhancing our impacts on society and the environment – leaving everybody, but in particular the next generations, with a healthy, clean, happier planet.  

Thank you so much for being a guest on our Zero Carbon Champions interview. We hope that the wise words that you provide and the practical steps that we’ve offered here will inspire others to take that piece of advice you gave to leap in and get cracking and get started setting that net zero carbon target. You can see and hear more on planetmark.com where we’re providing free advice and inspiration. We hope for other organisations to join the Race to Zero and set net zero carbon targets 

Thank you so much to Mark Bird from Childbase for joining us today. I’m Steve Malkin CEO and founder of Planet Mark and I hope you’ll join us again for another one of our sessions with our Zero Carbon Champions. Thanks ever so much and see you soon. 

Mastering Supply Chain Engagement

Tuesday 9 July 2024, 12:00-1:00 PM

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